Stopped for an Obscured Tag?
May 13th, 2016
What is an Obscured Tag? Simply put, it is a traffic violation for having a license plate on your car which has something covering the numbers, letters registration sticker, or any of the writing on the plate - like the word "Florida". If the cops can't see a portion of your plate, they can stop you. Prior to this week, the meaning of the statute varied from court to court. For example, some courts said that if something like a sticker is covering the plate, that is enough for a cop to stop you. Other courts said if the plate was blocked by something "external" like a trailer hitch, that wasn't enough to stop a person. Luckily, the Florida Supreme Court has decided that anything blocking the visibility of that license plate is enough for law enforcement to make a traffic stop. So what about this sticker? Or this? Or any of those crazy license plate frames? Yes to all. But they may not stop you for the first one. In the case decided by the Florida Supreme Court, an Orlando man was stopped because his tail light equipment and wires were hanging down and obstructing the view of his license plate. After the traffic stop, the police searched the car and found "something illegal". In a Motion to Suppress hearing filed by his criminal defense attorney, he argued that the tail light equipment was external to the plate, and not something that was fixed to it. This was an argument made in the Second District Court of Appeal in a case of a traffic stop for a tag obscured by a trailer hitch, which worked. But in this case, the Florida Supreme Court said that the plain meaning of the statute, doesn't distinguish between "external" obstruction of a license plate, or any other type of obstruction. Clearly, if you have a crazy license plate frame which is covering any part of the letters, words, or numbers on your tag, take it off. And if you have been stopped for an obscured tag, you do not have to give consent to search your car. (Obviously, if the police have probable cause they can search your car anyway.)
Categories: Pasco County Florida, Probable Cause, Traffic Stops
Tags: License Plate, traffic ticket